The challenge of 50 percent of young children not prepared for kindergarten
Washington's missed opportunity for school
Washington state missed a critical opportunity to ensure that at-risk children were ready for school when Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed a legislative plan to help, writes guest columnist John Bancroft. The challenge of 50 percent of young children not prepared for kindergarten still needs solving.
What in the world does "50% of kids are not ready for kindergarten" mean? Where is this study? They didn't pass the WASL? Did you know that 50% of children are below the median too? How many not ready for preschool? How many children are "unready" the moment they are born? These are same people who created "standards" for 2 year olds, and created as WASL test that declared that 70% of students, including the above-average as "below standard". How's this for a concept. You are ready for kindergarten when you are 5. What percentage of 5 year olds are ready for kindergarten? My math says 100%. Who figured out that if you're not 5 by end of August, you'll be ready the next year??? Hey public, these are the people who are running your schools. Wake the heck up. WASL is one silly idea down, fuzzy math, graduation exams, and universal whatever still to go. I dare the Times to allow me or anyone else to do a guest editorial on how the 1993 education reform has ruined public education for my generation of kids. That's why I'm running for Northshore Public Schools school board this fall. www.arthurhu.com/elect.htm
By John Bancroft
Special to The Times
PREV of NEXT
WASHINGTON'S decision-makers missed an exciting opportunity this year to address what is a serious learning gap: only 50 percent of our young children are ready for kindergarten.
All parents want their children to succeed in school, but family income and a child's age often present stumbling blocks that make this difficult to achieve.
Children who turn 5 by Sept. 1 are automatically enrolled in kindergarten. Since Washington's Constitution declares that basic education is our state's paramount duty, we take for granted that any family, rich or poor, can send their child to public school for free. Public education is considered a key ingredient of American democracy.
But for children who are not 5 by Aug. 31, parents are usually on their own in helping their child prepare for success in school. Some kids get to go to a part-day preschool, at parent expense. But for many families, preschool is often too expensive.
In fact, since fewer and fewer families can afford to have a stay-at-home parent anyway, more children are in full-day child care, typically at enormous cost to their parents. Low-income at-risk families can rarely afford either quality child care or preschool for their children.
In response to this gap, the federal Head Start program was created to help low-income parents get their children ready for school. Kindergarten teachers immediately noticed the difference. But Head Start has never been adequately funded to serve all eligible children, even though slots are available only to families earning less than about $18,000 a year.
In response, Washington created its own state-funded program, Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), to serve more of these at-risk children. Even so, Head Start and ECEAP programs fill up fast. Children then languish on waiting lists, often never served. We cannot imagine such a thing happening at our local elementary school. Whether a child comes from the poorest or richest family, schools are required to provide space to all children, entirely at taxpayer expense.
The 2008 Legislature created a Joint Taskforce on Basic Education to overhaul public-school financing. Republican and Democratic legislators, supported by a wide array of children's advocates, led the task force to recommend that preschool for at-risk children become part of our state's basic-education responsibility. Since numerous studies show that children unprepared for kindergarten are much less likely to succeed in school, assuring this readiness for at-risk children was deemed a crucial state priority.
A bipartisan coalition led the Legislature to pass the Education Finance Reform Act, sending the bill to the governor for signature.
The legislation allowed the state years of lead time to implement this reform, which mandated that all at-risk children eventually have voluntary access to preschool. Waiting lists for Head Start and ECEAP were to become a thing of the past, a giant step toward assuring that all children succeed in school.
But in a surprise move, Gov. Chris Gregoire, a strong supporter of early learning in the past, vetoed this entire section of the education-reform bill. She promised instead to propose legislation next year to create a state-supported preschool program for all children. This will be a tough battle.
The 2010 Legislature faces a very tight budget, and may hesitate to pass a major new program not financed through the basic-education-funding formula. The governor, joined by parents and other children's advocates, will have to work hard to bring their proposal to fruition.
Meanwhile, too many of Washington's preschool children will be told this September, "Sorry, this isn't your year." But if helping parents raise children who can succeed in school is one of our state's prime duties, we need to make it a reality for all our children.
John Bancroft is the president of Building Better Futures, which develops capital projects to expand services for children and their families. He has been an early-learning advocate in Washington for 30 years, and is a member of Washington's Early Learning Action Alliance. Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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Comments (4) fallstaff Lake Forest Park, WA57 comments
June 7, 2009 at 9:41 AMRating: (0) (0) Log in toreport abuseR N Carter: Suffice it to say that I never attended any preschool, did not go to kindergarten, entered first grade one month BEFORE I was six years old, and graduated from high school at age sixteen. On my college entrance exam I scored 98+ percent in logic.R N Carter Seattle, WA194 comments June 6, 2009 at 11:39 PMRating: (0) (0) Log in toreport abuse"fallstaff" -- Pity you added "What "progressive" socialists and their camp followers will one day have to come to grips with is that a substantial percentage of those at the bottom of the economic ladder are there because they are also at the bottom of the intellectual ladder, and alchemy can't change that" to an otherwise sensible post.
Where are you on the "ladder"? Where do you consider yourself to be? Where does the evidence of your post suggest you are?fallstaff Lake Forest Park, WA57 comments
June 5, 2009 at 10:06 PMRating: (0) (0) Log in toreport abuse'can't change that,'fallstaffLake Forest ParkcommentJune 5, 2009 at 10:03 PMRating: (0) (0) Log in toreport abuse"Serious learning gap: only 50 percent of our young children are ready for kindergarten." God forbid! How did we manage to struggle through most the 20th century, first with no kindergarten, then with mostly only half-day kindergarten, let alone no massively public funded preschool? Anybody who contends the framers of our state constitution intended to create, or themselves instituted such a system, is clearly delusional. What "progressive" socialists and their camp followers will one day have to come to grips with is that a substantial percentage of those at the bottom of the economic ladder are there because they are also at the bottom of the intellectual ladder, and alchemy can't that.